Tag Archives: Timor Leste Dental Program

And so it begins…gearing up for 2018

It seems like we’ve just stopped to draw breath from the helter-skelter of 2017, yet here we are – 6% of 2018 already done. So the TLDP year begins with an admin and planning trip. This is especially needed this year, as we lost our beautiful Timorese coordinator, Sr Filomena, to the Oe-cusse Carmelite Community at the end of 2017. Armed with calendars, forms, and loads of blank paper, Dr Blanche Tsetong is set to head to TL for 3 intense days of meetings and brainstorming. Of course, she’ll be taking some much needed supplies – we can’t let that valuable luggage-space go to waste!

Blanche will be meeting with Sr Inacia, one of the heads of the Carmelite order in TL and, at the same time, she hopes to meet the young Sr Anna, whose dental studies we hope to support in Indonesia. Whilst in Dili, she will also be meeting with the Ministry of Health to discuss the ongoing saga of dental registration. Then a big planning session is in the works with Bony, Nico and Sr Joaninha in Maubara. With Sr Filomena gone, the coordinator role will be shifted onto Nico, the dental therapist, who will be aided by the redoubtable Bony. As the only dental clinician within several districts, Nico has a big job ahead of him.

The Ermera and Maubisse contingent will be met back in Dili – Blanche is looking forward to a big gathering of some of our long-standing, dedicated Timorese clinicians – Tino from Gleno, Dr Inda from Maubisse, Ana Paula from Balibo, and Ana Tilman from the Kose Nehan Program in Aileu. These people are a joy to be with. There is much work to do, especially now that the TLDP bas been joined by two NGOs, the Bendigo-Maubisse Friendship Association and Solar Smiles. We all want to help, but it takes effort not to get in each other’s way. We will be looking to our Timorese friends for guidance!!!

And fingers crossed – at the end…..we’ll have a plan for 2018!!!! Wish us luck!

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THANKYOU AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!

It seems that the years fly by faster and faster as we get older. Here we are again at the end of the year, with the silly season looming. At this time, I reflect upon everything that has happened during the year – good and bad – all our achievements, all our losses, and how we have handled it all.

This year has been tumultuous for the Timor Leste Dental Program; we hired a new dental therapist, Nico Pires, at the beginning of the year, in a bid to increase the local ownership for the program. He has proved to be a true asset – a hardworking and competent clinician, who is unafraid to take charge even in the presence of some extremely authoritative (bossy) Aussie dentists. We simultaneously entered into a partnership with the Maubisse-Bendigo Friendship Association, which has increased the support for the Maubisse District, but has also had the effect of increasing (temporarily, we hope!) our workload, as we bring these newcomers up to speed. Maubisse Hospital acquired a new dentist – Dr Inda Zulmira Días –  who has already shown her skill in organising the Maubisse sectors for Teams 1 and 5, as well as an ability to connect with the community though our dental workshops. Everyone who got to work with her this year fell in love with her charm and enthusiasm.

Overshadowing everything was a great deal of frustration dealing with the moving goal posts of the new Timorese dental registration process – delays, lengthy meetings with government officials, multiple trips to Dili, mountains of paperwork, and emails, and submission and resubmission of documents…this is still ongoing. All the teams felt the absence of our translator, and friend, Bony, who was in his final year at university. Although he couldn’t work with the teams, he still set aside time to help the TLDP with the registration, as well as sorting out many other details for our teams. Thank you Bony!

The TLDP sent over 5 teams this year. We had a host of new volunteers – Dr Mary Tuituinnik, Dr Marius Mocke, Mrs Yvette Young, Ms Abbey Notley, Ms Liz Thompson, Dr Mengzhu Wang, Ms Malita McCabe, Dr Andrew Frame, Dr Phil Hill and Dr Christine Underhill. It was wonderful to see the way these new volunteers took the Timorese people into their hearts. We also saw the return of our regulars – Dr John Moran, Dr David Digges, Dr Wayne Pearson, Dr Karen Sloan, Dr Geoff Knight, Dr David Sheen, Dr Blanche Tsetong, Ms Bella Miller, Dr John Whyte, Dr Ashley Freeman and Dr Peter Shakes. The people who return, year after year, is what keeps this program running. They are gold.

Sadly, two of our team leaders, Wayne Pearson and David Sheen, claimed that this was their so-called ‘last’ trip to Timor; however, it is hard to resist Timor’s siren song – we think that Timor hasn’t seen the back of them yet! However, by far the biggest blow to the program this year, was the loss of Sr Filomena da Costa – our Timorese Program Coordinator. The Carmelite exec ruled that she had to move to Oecusse to head the community over there; as a relatively young community, they need someone with her 26 years of experience. In one fall swoop we have lost our boss, the best chef in Timor, our spiritual advisor, local folklorist and a quirky, mischievous friend. No prizes for guessing that everyone will be vying for the Oecusse spot from now on! Nico and Sr Joaninha have big shoes to fill.

This year the TLDP treated over 2330 people; we extracted over 1851 teeth, placed over 937 fillings, and carried out 411 preventive treatments. This treatment is worth about $977,650. We facilitated one dental workshop and mentored 6 Timorese dental clinicians over a period of 10 weeks.

We would like to wholeheartedly thank all our fabulous volunteers, who never stint on giving their time and effort to the Timorese people. We would also like to thank their families and friends who support them – they would not be able to do what they do without you. Thank you to all our Timorese workers, partners and helpers. There are always a multitude of local people, often unsung and unseen, who help keep the program running while we are over there – they are teachers, drivers, groundsmen, elders, nurses, passersby – they give because they can, and we are awed by them.  A massive thank you to Henry Schein Halas and SDI for their extremely generous donations to our program this year – we would not be able to function without your donations of vital dental materials and equipment. Last, but not least, thank you to our donors – 97% of your valuable contributions go directly towards helping the Timorese people. We are more than grateful for your support. Your contributions pay for equipment and vehicle maintenance, for material and equipment purchases and for the salaries of Nico and other Timorese translators and fixers. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

From all of us at the Timor Leste Dental Program, we wish all our volunteers, our supporters, our donors, our partners and their families, a happy Christmas. We wish you all the best for the new year. Keep safe and well and we will see you in 2018.

GO TEAM 3!

This Monday marks the arrival of our third team in TL this year. The team comprises team leader, Dr Wayne Pearson, boomerang volunteers – Dr Karen Sloan and the hardcore supernurse, Mrs Sally Stephens; as well as new blood, Dr Marius Mocke and Ms Abbey Notley; the eastern states of Australia are well-represented here – Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland! Along with Nico, it’s a BIG team! They will be spending their outreach week in the offshore island of Atauro – and braving the big boat – the ‘Nakroma’ – which we have previously used to get to/from Oecusse. The team will be taking 2 vehicles over to Atauro, and the Nakroma is the only boat big enough to carry them. We are a little apprehensive – the last time we put a car onto THAT boat, it nearly fell into the sea! Have fun Team 3! Hope you have red skies at night…..

Welcome Home Team 5!

Team 5, headed by Dr David Digges, arrived home on the weekend, safe and sound. We await their report with much anticipation, however, it may be awhile – we received an unusual call from our lovely Sr Filomena on the day that the team left. The team worked very hard, she reported, and were very tired. What dedication! Well done team and welcome home!!

Team 3 READY

The TLDP sends another team to TL’s fair shores this week. Close buddies, Wayne Pearson and Blanche Tsetong, first met in TL many years ago while serving in a dental team headed by program founder, Sandra Meihubers. With one exception, the pair have formed the core of a team every year since. This year, the pair was to be joined by newbies Beth Bowen and Mary Tuituinnik, however, both gals have had family issues and have had to bow out, leaving the redoubtable Sally Stephens to fill the breach. Sally continues to amaze us all with her dedication and enthusiasm and I am sure this team will have a ball in her company. As this team is tiny, it gets to got to Letefoho! Scenic, airy and peaceful, with Ramelau within spitting distance, Letefoho is one of the most stunning places the teams have had the privilege to visit. The region also has some of the worst roads and, as a result, is very isolated. Lots of work. Lucky Team 3! Wayne leaves his cattle in Grafton, and Blanche, her renovations in the Sunshine Coast, to fly to Darwin this Friday and onward to TL Saturday morning.

Final Stats in for Tireless Team 2

After much wrestling with the not-unusual sketchy communications which are a characteristic of this line of work, the final stats for Team 2 have hit Australian networks! Even though they had only 8 days to work in (given the surprise public holidays) they examined 354 patients, extracted 230 painful teeth and filled 193 less painful teeth. They also carried out 275 preventive treatments on teeth that could be saved. Well done Team!

ROTARY FUNCTION SUCCESS

Those of us who attended last night’s function are still stunned by the sheer grandeur of the event. The huge attendance, the generous support from donors, and the fabulous MC, all contributed to making last night’s event a huge success. A MASSIVE THANK YOU to Chatswood Rotary Club, for putting in the hard yards for this program. Thank you also to David Sheen and David Digges for their hard work in putting together their tightly woven speeches, and to Sam Moran for a video that cemented into the minds of the viewers an idea of what it is we do over in Timor Leste. We are extremely grateful to the Prime Minister, The Hon Tony Abbott for sparing us some time out of his busy schedule to join us last night and also to the Hon Joe Hockey MP, and other dignitaries, for their support and goodwill. A heartfelt thank you to the Consul General of Timor Leste, Armandina Gusmão Santos and her admin officer, Ligia Ximenes for their grace and friendship. They were wonderful company last night.

chatswood

It is too early for the final figures to be finalised, but rest assured, dear friends and supporters, the fabulous, super efficient folks from Chatwood Rotary have thrown us an event that has raised us more funds than we originally anticipated! A BIG thank you to all of you who attended last night, who spent up big on those auctions and raffles, and to those of you who continue to support us from afar.

(Picture from Left: Dr David Sheen, Dr Blanche Tsetong, Timor Leste Consul General, Sra. Armandina Gusmao Santos, Prime Minister The Honourable Tony Abbott,  & Dr David Digges)